Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of primary liver cancer in adults, and is the most common cause of death in people with cirrhosis.
It occurs in the setting of chronic liver inflammation, and is most closely linked to chronic viral hepatitis infection (hepatitis B or C) or exposure to toxins such as alcohol or aflatoxin. Certain diseases, such as hemochromatosis and alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, markedly increase the risk of developing HCC. Metabolic syndrome and NASH are also increasingly recognized as risk factors for HCC.
As with any cancer, the treatment and prognosis of HCC vary depending on the specifics of tumor histology, size, how far the cancer has spread, and overall health.
The vast majority of HCC occurs in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, in countries where hepatitis B infection is endemic and many are infected from birth. The incidence of HCC in the United States and other developing countries is increasing due to an increase in hepatitis C virus infections. It is more common in males than females for unknown reasons.